A cocoa farmer, Samuel Torbi, the second defence witness for Dr Stephen Opuni, a former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), who is standing trial along with businessman Seidu Agongo for causing financial loss of GHS217 million to the state, has told the High Court trying the case that he made so much money from the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 crop seasons as a result of the application of lithovit liquid fertiliser and, thus, was able to build his house from the windfall.
Under cross-examination by Mr Nutifafa Nutsikpui, counsel for the 2nd and 3rd Accused persons (Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited), Mr Torbi insisted that the fertiliser was very efficient and effective for him and his colleague cocoa farmers at Assin Fosu in the Central Region contrary to claims by some prosecution witnesses that it was substandard and worthless.
“My Lord, I state to the honourable court that I have used so many fertilisers in my farming activities”, adding: “…The time I was able to build my house [that] I’m living in now was in 2015 to 2017 and, so, lithovit liquid fertiliser helped me to get money and I also got happy in cocoa farming”.
He said the farmers in his area even planned to hit the streets to demonstrate against the bad reports that circulated in the media about the fertiliser when they first heard it on the airwaves.
“My Lord, when we heard that, we, the farmers, quickly gathered ourselves and went to the district CHED office and we informed the district that we, the farmers, are ready to demonstrate against the issues from the radio, TV and in the newspapers”.
“The district officer told us that the lithovit liquid fertislier that had been seized was not done by him and that the demonstration will not help us but rather, we should go to the market and find out whether we will get some to buy because they know that the lithovit liquid fertiliser is very good”, he continued.
“When we went to the market and did not get the lithovit liquid fertiliser, we went to three radio stations at Assin Fosu, namely Nkwa FM, Splash FM and Rich FM. We then spoke against the adverse criticisms that have come up in the newspapers, the radio stations and the TV stations and because they don’t listen to us, the farmers, what we said got nowhere”, MR Torbi told the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga.
He also said lithovit liquid fertiliser was the “farmer’s messiah” since it gave them plentiful yield.
Mr Torbi, who said he was born into cocoa farming but has been doing it commercially for 17 years, told the court that he first used lithovit in the 2015/2016 crop season.
He said Cocobod directly introduced and distributed lithovit fertiliser to the farmers and not Agricult Company Limited, the third accused in the case.
Mr Torbi told the court that he and other farmers were trained on lithovit by CHED under Cocobod in Assin Fosu and not Agricult who they “don’t know”.
He said he harvested the “highest” yield in the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 crop seasons all due to the use of lithovit liquid fertiliser.
After those two crop seasons, he said he has not harvested yields close to that quantum again.
In his view, lithovit fertiliser was what made the difference in yield in the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 crop seasons and not any other factors.
He said lithovit liquid fertiliser “widens” the leaves of the trees, gives them a “pure green” look and makes the flowers “very strong” so that they do not fall off when using the mist blower to spray fertiliser on them as the other fertilisers do.
“That makes the lithovit liquid fertiliser different from other fertilisers and makes cocoa grow very well. That was why we, the farmers, were happy with the lithovit liquid fertiliser”, he told the court.
As the chairman of the cocoa farmers’ cooperative in Assin Fosu for 12 years, he said, “when I used it, it made me happy and I did not get any negative effects about it”.
He also said “nobody complained to me but rather the happiness I had was the same happiness they [other farmers] also had and they said that it is now that they have believed that if they say that cocoa farming is a business, lithovit liquid fertiliser has made them realise that.”
He also denied claims that farmers drank the fertiliser in place of water.
”No my Lord, because the training they took us through means any agrochemicals we spray on our cocoa, when it enters our bodies, it will give us problems and, so, when we are spraying any insecticides or liquid fertiliser, we put on gloves, we also wear nose masks, we wear spectacles and we put on overalls and wellington boots and, so, if anyone tells you that you can drink lithovit liquid fertiliser when you are thirsty then that person is not a farmer and no farmer will say such a thing.”
“My Lord, that will not be true because even a junior officer at the CHED office at the district will not say that let alone an officer at the head office”, he stressed.
He said all the farmers in his cooperative were happy with the lithovit fertiliser. “My Lord, when we meet the only effects they talk about is lithovit liquid fertiliser makes cocoa grow very well and brings about more yield so all our farmers are crying whether we could get the lithovit liquid fertiliser for them”.
Asked what he made of claims that the fertiliser was of no value, he said: “Farmers will never forgive that person because Lithovit liquid fertiliser is a farmers’ messiah and I also don’t believe that any staff from COCOBOD will come out and say such a thing”.
Asked if there will be any justification to condemn the company or the person who brought the fertiliser, Mr Torbi said: “No, my Lord because we need it”.